The former chairman of the legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday endorsed Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the April 7 runoff just six months after delivering a rare public tongue-lashing to the mayor and Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) acknowledged he has a contentious “history with the mayor,” particularly when it comes to crime statistics that on Wednesday showed a troubling spike in homicides and shootings during the first quarter of the year.
BAD NEWS: Spike in homicides comes at bad time for Emanuel
But he also argued that Emanuel has “grown” and “matured” after being forced to fight for his political life in Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff.
“You see him engaged a little differently [and] better. He’s out in the communities . . . I see him having two ears, instead of just one mouthpiece. The bottom line is, he is listening more and he’s gonna be that much better of a mayor going forward,” Dunkin said.
“I see him having a lot more to draw from in the next four years, based off some of the trials and tribulations he’s experienced. . . . I can’t shift all the burden on him. It’s a collective responsibility of us in the community letting the mayor know what our disappointments are with him and some of the challenges that we have, as I’ve done.”
When Emanuel heard himself described as having “two ears, instead of just one mouthpiece,” he turned to Dunkin and joked, “Your time at the mike’s over.” Then he said, “We are in a church. I want to be respectful.”
Wednesday’s love-fest at Quinn Chapel, 2400 S. Wabash Ave., was the antithesis of the public flogging that Dunkin delivered last fall, when Emanuel and McCarthy appeared before a legislative commission to pitch the mayor’s proposal to lighten up on small-time drug offenders.
On that day, Dunkin accused Emanuel of breaking his campaign promise to hire 1,000 additional police officers and using runaway overtime as a substitute for police hiring.
Dunkin even questioned the veracity of crime statistics that both the mayor and McCarthy had used to tout a 40-year low in homicides and a drop in other crimes.
“If you hired more officers, as you committed to when you first came to the city, you would see a different relationship in some of these communities as compared to if you burned out the same ones. I don’t think that’s responsible,” he said.
At one point at that hearing, Dunkin also had turned on McCarthy, who was seated next to the mayor.
“With the level of carnage and murder and mayhem in black and brown communities — if that level of activity was occurring in Ravenswood, where you live . . . how would you rate him doing his job? You know how I feel,” Dunkin told Emanuel.
After the exchange, Dunkin escalated his attack on Emanuel and his hand-picked superintendent.
“If that was a woman, she’d be arrested, let alone fired as superintendent. Yet, they work as a tag team and they doctor up these numbers that speak completely opposite to what’s going on in the community and we’re supposed to buy that,” Dunkin said.
“It’s borderline offensive to come in front of us and give us political platitudes and numbers that you’ve doctored up. Our time is too valuable.”
Emanuel responded to the September demand for McCarthy’s ouster by telling Dunkin to his face, “I think he’s doing a very good job,” adding, “I’M the mayor.”
On Wednesday, Emanuel reiterated his plan to retain McCarthy as police superintendent if he’s re-elected on Tuesday.
Asked about that, Dunkin said, “The mayor makes that call. . . . I’m gonna follow the mayor’s lead on his four-year experience. If he feels comfortable with him,” he’s OK with it.
But Dunkin made it clear that he has expressed his “concern” directly to the mayor about the disproportionate number of African-Americans subject to so-called “stop-and-frisk” stops by Chicago Police.
“I asked him to take a strong look at why these numbers are the way they are. . . . I spoke to the concerns that any black legislator would have,” he said.
“He listened to me very intently. . . . I see him taking a different and new approach towards a police strategy” if he’s re-elected.
As surprising as it was to see Dunkin endorse Emanuel six months after skewering the mayor publicly is the fact that Dunkin is a Springfield ally of the Chicago Teachers Union who has accepted $16,000 in campaign contributions from the CTU.
After being diagnosed with brain cancer, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was forced to take a pass on the mayor’s race and talked Jesus “Chuy” Garcia into taking her place. The CTU and SEIU have bankrolled Garcia’s campaign.